Saturday, February 7, 2009

Flowers in February

What are flowers? The sex parts of plants! Have we talked about this before? Spores of 'early' plants such as ferns and mosses are very very tiny and they float on the wind and land in potential sites for new plants. Complicated things happen under the right moisture conditions. New plants happen. Flowering plants are different. The girl part with the ovary is on the plant. Pollen, the plant equivalent of sperm, needs to get to the ovary. Some primitive flowering plants make pollen that is very light and can float on a breeze.

But if the pollen is heavier, it will just fall to the ground, so it begins to be beneficial for the plant to engage some moving creature to carry the pollen to the pistil which is the part of the ovary that sticks out of the plant. So the plant invests some of its energy into making a show to attract a pollinator. And it offers a reward of nectar, sweet plant juice, for the pollinator. Some plants make a big bright show and other plants make lots of little shows. Some plants rely on vision alone to lure in the pollinator while others offer olfactory inducement: Fragrance! No, the flowers are not there for our enjoyment. Rather, they are there for the plant to trick some insect or bird or bat to help it have sex. Do you know that if you click on the photo, a new window will open with the photo greatly enlarged? Enjoy!

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